Saturday, December 02, 2006

Thoughts on F&F 2006

I was overwhelmed with the amount of significant landmarks and remnants of essential places and people who persevered during America's formative years. As is said that, "History is always interpreted", it was refreshing to hear the many historic lectures given by Bill Potter, Paul Jehle, and Doug Phillips, as seen from a providential perspective. That is, acknowledging that the hearts of both the kings and the commoners, and the resulting blessings or consequences, have been, and always will be, in the hands of God.

One of the most exciting aspects of the Faith and Freedom Tour was observing over 20 families work, learn, and travel together. It was encouraging to see fathers taking the information given at each historic site by such historians, and make sure that they were understanding how important each monument, historic site, or graveyard was in the structure of our history.

This ties into one of the most interesting parts of the tour as we visited the old graves in Salem, the infamous city which was the birth place of the witch trials. I was shocked to hear that, at the heart of the several factors that led to this historic atrocity, were a couple of pre-teen girls who got together and decided against following the guidelines of their fathers. They wanted to discover their life mates regardless of the consequences or the guideline, and thus became involved in occult practices.

The aftermath of this rebellion resulted over 120 people being accused of being accomplices of the devil, 19 men and women hung, and a man, who suggested some good ol' corporal punishment for the possessed little girls, having stone after stone laid on his chest until his ribs caved in.

Several years later, the girls, now women, publicly confessed to their actions and confirmed that the accusations were made out of family spite, anger, and an effort to eliminate those who actually accused them of being involved in witchcraft.

Many principles can be drawn from this piece of history, especially as the story is further investigated, but what I took away was the importance of parents always being aware of the spiritual condition of their children, for children to obey their authorities regardless of whether or not they know why (a lesson for all of us), and for us never to make final judgment based on the accusations of someone else.

While this may seem pretty basic, I know that I have a lot to learn from the story of Salem. And I can also say that the parents who I met on the trip were certainly on the right path to keeping their children's hearts.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Faith and Freedom Tour

Well, so much for my live blogging idea. Time seems to be in such abundance when you're sitting in an airport on your way to an interesting destination. But then there's the issue of reality.

So, in light of the fact that I have received a few reprimands from you, my readers, for making promises I can't keep in regard to daily updates, I do hereby apologize.

While Tait faithfully hammered out the details of the day on his blog (till insane hours of the night), I sat at a little desk across our small room chopping up video clips I had shot throughout the day on my trusty handy cam. I had the idea of posting video clips of trip here on my blog, but now I am thinking about saving the material for a later release date (a project that will soon be due).

So, if you are willing to redirect your rotten vegetables to your local compost, I will once again make an attempt to give you my perspective of this past and very exciting week in Plymouth, MA. over the next few days.

Friday, November 10, 2006


First, I would like to say that I have greatly appreciated the interest I have received from you, my viewers, since the start of my time here in Texas. I hope that, during the course of my writings, you have found articles of interest, insight, and even encouragement.

Second, I am sure that you have a few questions about my time here, the intern household, etc. Thus, I am opening this post for any questions you may have about any aspect of my internship so far. I would be very interested on hearing from each one of you, though, you don't even have to identify yourself(dear blog stalkers:).

Thanks again for stopping by.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Destination Unknown

Not too long ago, Christopher was nearing another 365 day cycle of life and, in light of this fact, the rest of us were trying to figure out what we could get him. Chris nonchalantly mentioned a list of VF products he was interested in, but then said that he would probably just buy them himself. So we congratulated him, theoretically stuck our hands in our pockets, and forgot about this whole birthday thing…or so he thought.

As I continued to run through ideas of something to do, Tait went and talked to Mr. Gobart, the CS department chief, and came away with some great ideas, particularly a hiking trip on the second largest rock in North America concluded by an authentic German meal in the town of Fredericksburg.

We brought our idea to Mr. Turley and asked if there were any assignments for us on that particular day (Saturdays are usually reserved for community service projects). We soon found out that Mr. Turley did in fact have an assignment for us - to rectify damages made behind our warehouse by an individual who seemed to have mistaken the area for the city landfill. After hearing the mission run down, it was soon determined that we could formulate this slight deviation as part of the bigger plan.

“Chris, we just found out that we need to be at the warehouse around 6 A.M tomorrow morning.” His shocked response couldn’t have been better. The reason for the early start time was that the Enchanted Rock, our planned climbing location, was over 2 hours away and usually filled up pretty fast.

The next morning found four halve awake interns in a dark back alley, picking up trashed building supplies and tree trimmings, while we talked about the strenuous day of work ahead of us with a family in the country.

After driving through many miles of winding, single-lane, Texas countryside, we all saw in the short distance a large rock formation followed by signs indicating a nearby state park. We all grinned as Christopher mentioned how much he would like to trek up the massive rock.

As we approached the area of interest, one of the guys mentioned that we should at least drive in the park, but then the issue of paid parking came up. As we all debated whether or not we should waste the money to see something we couldn’t enjoy, I drove my car closer to the ticket man. In the midst of this debate, I spoke up. “Well Chris, I think it’s time that we tell you something.” Silence. “Happy Birthday!”

By this time I think Christopher was ready to smack at least one of us for pulling his leg the whole time, but excitement over our new scheduled day of events quickly changed this initial reaction.

I’m sure you’d like to hear what happened next, but as I think I’ll let the pictures we took tell the rest of the story.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

San Antonio Independant Christian Film Academy

I hope to tell you more about this wonderful event in the future based on a behind-the-scenes point of view, but until then, please visit the website of twin brothers Alex and Bret Harris for live blogging throughout the week. The Harris’s are very unique, mature, and purposeful young men who are making a huge contribution to VF by informing those who could not attend what material is being discussed. I hope to relay some of the conversations I have had with them, as well as with all of the speakers from both the past and upcoming days.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

En Garde!

When I first heard that our intern class would be given the opportunity to receive fencing instruction I was rather surprised. Why fencing? What significance does it have?

Before we began our lessons, Mr. Phillips gave us a lecture on the significance of fencing and how it relates to our internship. The article below, written by Mr. Phillips and posted on his blog, entails the points made during our introduction to the idea of fencing.

Perhaps the most unusual element of the Vision Forum training is the requirement that the entire intern class study fencing. Under the delightful and expert instruction of Andrei Samorodov, a former Russian fencing champion and Soviet/Russian military officer, the Vision Forum men are learning the disciplines, execution and proper competitive technique of the Épée. I am so very thankful for Coach Andrei (founder of the Alamo Fencing Academy) who provides the men with excellent private instruction at an exceptional price.

There are five goals to the Vision Forum fencing program:

1. Mental: Train the men to have fertile, quick, analytical minds which think strategically in conflict situations. (Fencing is largely a mental discipline.)

2. Physical: Cultivate the physical component of the Vision Forum internship’s preparation for life and manhood by exposing the interns to intense work-outs, challenging physical disciplines, and actual combat.

3. Historical: For nearly six-thousand years the predominant weapon of choice for self-defense and warfare has been the sword (in its many incarnations). Numerous practical and spiritual applications can be drawn from understanding the history and application of this weapon.

4. Friendship and Teamwork: Provide the interns with an unusual opportunity to grow in friendship and appreciation one for another as a team of men committed to a common goal, thrown into an environment with which they were completely unfamiliar, who must learn to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

5. Spiritual: Learn to understand the numerous applications and relevant spiritual analogies to be drawn from fencing, (including the biblical teachings regarding the sword and the life of the Christian) such that their knowledge and experience with fencing can be a tool for practical encouragement and instruction of others.

Our instructor, as Mr. Phillips mentioned, has as colorful and exciting history. Mr. Andrei Samorodov, a former Soviet Military Special Forces Officer, was one of the very last immigrants from the Soviet Union to seek political asylum here in the United States. Pressure to murder civilians from the higher ups in his branch of the Army created the circumstances to which he was given two options: commit murder or die; kill or be killed. This deterioration of events motivated the Captain to risk all, pack up his family leave Russia, and head for America.

However, with such short notice he was not able to enter the States with all of the necessary clearance and thus he attempted to enter illegitimately, an action which soon brought about detainment. Below is a section of articles which were posted in the New York Times regarding this part of his story.

After spending six months in an immigration detention center, where he gave U.S. intelligence officers a detailed briefing on the state of Russian battlefield communications and cryptography, Samorodov was granted political asylum in the United States on May 12, 2000…. …Samorodov’s defection emerged last fall when a San Antonio newspaper made an appeal to its readers to pay the air fare to bring the former officer's wife and children to the United States. They arrived three months ago from Stavropol under the same grant of asylum.

Regretfully, this story has been revised by the NY Times with a new article. The reason for this “correction” was explained to be the result of new information being brought to their attention. It just so seems that Russian officials informed the paper that none of the events told by Mr. Samorodov and recounted in the published article ever really happened, and that this officer was just a dismissed, has-been, troublemaker.

Once he gained his naturalization into the States, Mr. Samorodov began to support his family by giving fencing lessons and by performing handy man type jobs. Soon his skill as an instructor allowed him to completely devote his working hours to fencing instruction. Because of his skill as a teacher, his best students have taken top awards in State and National competitions, and his 13 year old daughter took the Silver Medal during the Youth Women's Epee Division in the 2004 U.S. Nationals.

As you might assume from the accomplishments related above, Mr. Samorodov is a wealth of information on fencing and is himself quite good at it. His career in the sport started when he learned to fight epée in his early teens. Soon he began to receive attention from many prominent colleges and sponsors as he quickly progressed. Soon he began to win oblast (city), and eventually district competitions, and gained very respectable and high paying sponsors to the point that he became a full time professional fencer.

I’m not sure exactly how VF crossed paths with Captain Samorodov, but one thing is certain, Mr. Phillips picked a good and thorough teacher. Our classes have exposed us to rigorous instruction, muscle burning drills, complete physical workouts, and the thrill of bashing each other with cutlery in a completely unorganized way (when rebuked by, “Guys! You are not gladiators!” we started learning that skill is actually involved in this sport). At the conclusion of each class, all four of us walk, sometime unsteadily, out the door sweating from every (and I mean every) pore in our bodies.

In light of his regard for family values, a strong tradition in Russia, Mr. Samorodov has a deep respect for the goals and focus of Mr. Phillips and The Vision Forum. Though he is not a saved man, he has been greatly encouraged to see an organization which seeks to encourage the development of character, discipline, and family unity.

I’m sure you will hear and see more of our fencing experiences in the coming weeks, but here is a little update from my perspective:
· Tait has assumed the style of a strong charging steed and is a determined, hard fighter.

· Christopher is very technical and thinks about every touch and quickly determines how to fix his weak spots.

· Jason is unpredictable. He studies different styles and tries out new methods with speed.
· I have been described as untraditional and as “one of those crazy lefties”.

· So far we have all fenced each other, several other members of VF, a few of Alamo Fencing’s best 8-12 year olds (skill has little to do with size), a United States Men’s Division National Champion, and a1972 Olympic silver medalist.

In conclusion, we are enjoying this unique opportunity and are trying to do our best to take capture of every aspect of the experience. As the days progress, more pictures will be posted. Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned…

Monday, September 25, 2006

At the Office

Though I have plenty of experiences to share in great detail, I think that it is time to post on what we as interns are actually doing at The Vision Forum, and what I have learned so far.

To start with, the arrival of this past Monday initiated a new rotation of job assignments. Christopher left the quiet department of accounting to the fast paced atmosphere in the warehouse. Tait then filled Christopher’s void as I took over Tait’s chair in customer service. Jason, well, Jason remains in his little unchanging “IT world”, as he calls it.

Jason has done well in his department. Monday brought about some changes for him as well as the IT chief left for three weeks of vacation. The real test, however, came a few days ago when three of Mr. Phillips hard drives crashed in the same day. As Jason calmly tried test after test, made several phone calls to different manufacturers, and gulped down a Venti black which I delivered earlier that evening, he was finally able to give Mr. Phillips a promising report at around 8:30 PM. Failure in this department is not acceptable and can be very damaging. Thankfully, Jason has responded very well and is very much appreciated by the VF staff and Mr. Phillips.

Christopher thoroughly enjoyed assisting Mr. Short in the accounting department for the past few weeks. As his father is a CPA, some of those number crunching genes must have given him a great aptitude for this particular atmosphere. He made deposits, recorded payments, reconciled statements, and suggested Excel ideas whenever he saw a way to improve productivity.

Tait had to be practically shoved out of the customer service department. The interaction with the department head, Mr. Gobart, combined with the many different opportunities offered in the department, proved to offer an experience which he enjoyed and did not want to depart from.
I must say that the warehouse probably has the widest array of physical jobs to perform. An extensive account of a day in the warehouse would be as follows. The morning starts off with Mr. Coughlin giving me a multi page list of items to “pick” for the day. Isle numbers, shelve category, and the precise spot of every item ordered that day guide me to the right spot as I push a large shopping cart up and down each section. Once the items from one isle are placed in the cart, I then place them on a table which lies at the end of the row. Isle A has a table, isle B has a table, and so forth.

The next stage is to grab one of the hundreds of freshly printed packing invoices for the day, walk to the appropriate table (A,B,C…) grab the item(s), put them in a box or trey, and place them on the inspection table.

After inspection takes place, the items are then placed on a moving packing line. These items are then place in boxes deems appropriate size by the packer. After countless air packets are strategically secured around the purchase, the sealed box is then placed on the shipping line. The boxes are then scanned, a UPS label applied, stacked on a pallet, and then shipped out at the end of each day.

This is only the most basic daily activity of the day but I’ll leave the aspects of the warehouse for either Tait or Christopher to explain.

Things learned while working in the warehouse would include the importance of paying attention to detail (saves a lot of time and effort, just like anything else), and being diligent in what I may consider menial tasks (packing right saves lots of VF resources). Also, I have learned that everything I do in the warehouse becomes much more significant when I take the time to think about how many different family’s lives will be touched, maybe even turned around, by the materials they would soon receive…if I do my job right.

Now I have a new learning curve to develop in the Customer Service Department. New insights from this new perspective of business will soon be shared. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Vision Forum Photoshoot

We got the call around 3 PM. The message was that we were to arrive at the planned location within the hour. With three cases of water in tow, we made our way towards an estate located on the outskirts of downtown San Antonio. The goal for the day was to assist those responsible for capturing photos pertaining to items which will soon be featured in Vision Forum’s 2007 catalog in whichever way necessary.

After admiring the upscale ranches we passed along the way, we finally drove up to a gate which guarded the entrance of a exquisite looking mansion, preceded by a winding loop through the front of the property. After entering the gate code we then drove up to and parked near a house/garage situated 200 yards away from the main residence.

Upon our arrival we gazed in wonder at the beautiful property and the enormous house. As we walked along we met the photographer and his daughter, who served as his assistant. After introductions were made we all split up, starting out on various tasks. Jason helped by getting the bottled water out of my trunk and putting them in an ice filled chest. Tait started offloading the photographer’s equipment from a truck, and Chris and I started pulling potted flowers out of Mrs. Phillips’s vehicle, who had arrived shortly after us.

By this time, Mr. Turley had arrived with props, ranging from books, trebuchets, armor, several different sword styles and a few helmets. After these were unloaded we interns all made our way in through large solid oak doors which lead into the foyer of the house. Marble tile covered the floor while two white carpeted staircases, each on either sides of the entrance hall, led to the upper level of the house. We walked through the doors, passed under stair cases and then found our way to a richly decorated office. If you have seen last years “Henty shot” with Joshua Phillips and Samuel Turley posing atop a bear rug then you have seen part of the office I am talking about. Tait and I started setting up light stands while Jason was looking for a place to plug in the power box, a mechanism which makes all of the lighting flash at once. Meanwhile, Chris started putting up the overhead lighting and I was re-assigned to go back to the office to pick up some more supplies.

By the time I arrived back at the country estate the new Henty shot was complete and the crew was moving props outside under Mr. Phillips direction. Josh and Sam changed out of their period costumes as Justice was fitted with an authentic Jamestown breastplate by two professional costume assistants, Tait and I. Mr. Phillips then proceeded to photograph Justice in various poses while the main photographer (I forgot his name, sorry) instructed Sam and Joshua on how to interact with a trebuchet (very nice piece of work, everybody needs a few).

Next on the schedule were some new Beautiful Girlhood shots. While setting up for this scene one of the first tasks was to refill a snack tray that was partly a prop and partly, well, a snack. Time and sunlight were going faster than desired so Jason and I sprinted a hasty return to the shooting location after refilling a tray with some fresh cheese and crackers. Soon thereafter the cameras started clicking. I must say that those girls really had a strenuous job, particularly the two who were sitting on a tree limb while holding a doll and book. But everyone around offered words of encouragement, advice, and/or cracked jokes, thus making the girls perform their best.

About a hundred shots later we then moved to a different location, all the while Jason and Tait were employed by either holding flashes in various places or helping the camera man test the camera for the best lighting settings. Chris helped move different items around while I stood by Mr. Phillips, holding the different cameras was not using at the moment. During the second shoot, two of the models, miss Mary Ellen Turley and miss Faith Phillips, were excused from a particular photo arrangement and thus sat together reading a book. Overhearing that a couple of words were proving difficult I offered to read the book to them. They excitedly complied and I sat down. This lasted until the entire photo shoot was pronounced complete and so I started to get to work on wrapping things up. However, Faith begged me to at least finish the chapter I was on, and so it was I who then complied.

With the sun starting to dip behind the horizon and the shadows of the many trees stretching far across the yard, we quickly started winding up cords, putting away props, taking down lighting structures, storing the wardrobe, and making sure we left everything just as we found it. At the end of the day it was nice to see that both the photographer and Mr. Phillips were pleased with the result of the entire event and that all the day’s goals were reached.

During the entire event I was impressed to see how well everyone worked together in such a high stress environment. This is not that anybody was stressed out, but with uncooperative sunlight and cloud cover, the heat, and the needed urgency to take all of the necessary shots before the sunlight was insufficient, certainly presented plenty of opportunities for anybody on the set to get a little short. Another thing I observed first hand, and was impressed by, was Mr. Phillips interaction with his children, particularly his sons. He treated them like men and they responded to him with the deepest respect. When he spoke they listened and when they spoke they chose their words carefully. What a great opportunity to witness the good fruit Godly child training.

Going behind the scenes of the catalog shoot was both interesting and exciting. I learned few things and felt honored to participate in the event. Now it’s up to our Creative Media department to go through the hundreds of pictures taken and find the ones that will best suit the catalog. It’s only one more week till we are scheduled to send the completed project off to the printers and eventually to your home. I’m sure your family will enjoy the new products as much as we have by building, testing, or by otherwise indirectly helping to produce them. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

What makes your neighborhood unique?

As I sit here in a different house, in a different neighborhood, I look back and remember the things which have made the place where I lived very unique. Here is a look into what happens with semi-average consistency around my home in Washington State. I am still observing the oddities around my place here in San Antonio.


Home has always meant a great many things to a great deal of different people. Some say itÂ’s where the heart is; others insist itÂ’s where you hang your hat. But, whether you think about it or not, home may also be the place where many strange and perplexing activities might be observed.

I live in a suburb of Olympia in a housing community known as Marvin Gardens. Now this unassuming name, combined with my complacent initial overview of the area, left me with a content overall sense of complete security, peace, and privacy as my family and I moved in. The only qualities of my surroundings which I failed to investigate were the neighbors. Now for an uppity name like Marvin Garden, which after all is a valued property in the game of Monopoly, one might expect to have completely unobtrusive, sane, and apathetic neighbors. And that assumption was right, at least for the most part.

To give a few examples of were I was wrong in my assessment of the neighborhood I will relate a few of my experiences. To start with, there is the unknown citizen who drives at about 50 MPH up the road behind our house with a dog hanging out the passenger side window, barking continuously. This is done about twice a week and the dog can be heard for miles. Nobody knows were he goes or what he does, and I never hear them return. Many questions have since raced through my brain in response: What happens to the dog? Is this man part of an underworld animal ring? Or does the canine simply lose its voice on the return trip?

Another example can be taken from an immediate neighbor to the right of our house who lives a mostly quiet and peaceable life. But you know that the stillness of the air will soon become modified when the elderly house dweller starts dragging junk out of his backyard garage. Now to the average person this may seem like a good sign; an indication of attempted progress in purification. But I have come to know better. The stacks of lawn chairs and unidentifiable trash bag covered items strewn across my neighbors yard only indicates that he is yet going to grace the community with his synthesized rock organ. Presently I am then confronted with a very loud, prerecorded background track accompanied by my neighbor playing two or three different chords repeatedly. I then ask myself: Is the man deaf? Did he used to play in a band somewhere? Or is he simply making use of a piece of equipment which he previously thought was a necessity but has since been sitting in the garage for over twenty years?

Now the barking dog and this hypnotizing organ music may seem pretty abnormal, but they pale in comparison to the all out weirdness of some other folks I live by. There is a family of three that live in a huge house across from ours, but there are a few things that set them apart from “resident normalcy” as I call it. The first thing is that the homeowners never come out during the day, unless it is on the business of driving 100ft. to mailbox and back. The second thing of note is that the coupleÂ’s only son still lives at home, is in his mid-forties, and has never been married. This sonÂ’s daily activities consist of opening the garage door at around 10:15 each morning, backing the old truck out and parking it on the side of the house, opening the hood and tinkering inside for about 3 hours, returning the vehicle to the garage, and finally closing the garage door behind him. The third weird part about this family is that during the Christmas season we felt that it was our duty, as neighborhood newcomers, to distribute home baked goods throughout the community. Our last stop on our mission of good will was the home across the street. My sister and I slowly walked up the long, dark driveway and rang the door bell. Finally the porch light turned on, the homeowner opened the door, grunted something, and returned inside. His wife then came out, politely refused any and all of the treats we made, and retuned inside. From the moment the door was shut in our face, the questions again started. What exactly do they do indoors all day? Why is it necessary to drive to the mail box 365 days a year? What does their son find so interesting in the hood of that old truck? And did they think we were trying to poison them with our Christmas cheer?

The month of June marks the one year anniversary of our arrival to our beautiful house, and one year of contact with the residents of Marvin Gardens. The overall experience has been one of normalcy and enjoyment. But the events that happen in between the points of what is normal and what is not, are the things that truly make life amusing and colorful. And though I have not yet answered all of my questions in regard to motives of my neighbor’s actions, I am content to know that I reside in a diverse and truly authentic American community. This is my neighborhood. A place where the oddities never end, and were each day is quite unpredictable.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Coming Soon...

...A behind the scenes look at the 2007 catalog VF photoshoot. With preparations well under way, and with our graphics department working 14 hour days, we are getting closer to the publication of next years catalog. I have already seen, and tested, numerous new products which are under consideration and I can assure you that there is some good stuff on the way. The photoshoot is scheduled for tomorrow at a mansion in San Antonio. We interns will be present to help with lighting, props, entertainment of restless children, and whatever else in the world needs to be done. Pictures will be on the way soon!

Friday, August 25, 2006

An Intern Weekend

Last Saturday the intern group drove to the outskirts of San Antonio, destined to help a new Christian family related to a VF staff member move in. As will hopefully be our custom, we were the first to arrive and got right to work as soon as introductions were made. With our help, the initial crew amounted to about six and work seemed to be going at a good pace. Then a few minutes later, two and then a third vehicle drove up and more smiling VF staff members pilled out and helped make short work of the oversized U-haul. With guys constantly going in and out of the truck and house we finished unloading the entire task in about an hour. Then after setting up some beds and rearranging some furniture we all left a very kind and grateful family behind with big start to life in the new community.

After leaving, we interns decided to make the most of our few minutes of free time and stopped along the sides of the old, winding, and decrepit Texas highway to snap a few pictures. First we pulled over at the top of a hill that descended , slightly rolling up and then down, finally ascending to the other side of embankment. This spot looked great for a snapshot so Chris and I jumped out. Unfortunately, Chris’s picture turned out much better than mine so you’ll have to go to his site for the great view. We then continued retracing our route home and stopped on the far side of a bridge which spanned a beautiful, yet foul smelling, river. The dark, rough, mature, and steadfast trees which grew along the bank stood in contrast to the cool, blue and flowing river which winded lazily through the landscape. After a few shots here, and a slight fright by a dead snake “lurking” on the water bank, we moved on. Our next stop brief photo shoot at an old church which blended well with the Texas colors of the land and just looked kind of neat.

We then journeyed on to another sort of destination which we knew would comfort us with somewhat of an at home-type atmosphere. That place was Costco. Now if you’re not part a big family then you really wouldn’t understand just why Costco plays such an integral part in life. In light of a kids perspective, there’s tons of books to sit and read, plenty of free food at every corner, and the often times happy ending of a Costco pizza or at least a pretzel. Any, so we were heading to Costco and started writing down the list of items we needed to buy. Apparently, our kind driver (note: Mr. Kent will not be specifically be named here as the driver) seemed to come to the conclusion that we needed more time to compile our list, so he missed the correct street and wound up driving over 4 miles in a circular attempt to reach our destination. “Isn’t this a nice drive?” he asked us all while smiling ear to ear. Three blank stares returned his carefree question. Then we all started laughing.

The last adventure of the day for me was to get my hair cut. Now this was no small chore because frankly I’ve never gone to a public barber in all my life. That may seem odd to you but averaging about 1 cut a month to the price of about $8 a cut for a period of about 19 years, there’s a savings of about $1,824. Good thinking mom. But as I was saying, I needed to get a cut so I stopped by the PX (Post Exchange) after a brief trip to the commissary. After viewing the average hair cut, a close shave around the head with a hair cutter followed by a electric shaver which left only a tuft of hair on top, I asked that my hair was not cut too short. The barber nodded in agreement and went to work. 10 minutes later she handed me a mirror. I was shocked. Now mom may nick me on the ear if I I’m being mouthy, but she would never butcher my head in this fashion. Oh well. Welcome the uncaring world I guess.

I have much more to share but this post is getting long so I’ll add more in a few days. I hope all those reading my blog, from my dear friends in Washington State to the friends and family of Chris, Jason, and Tait, will continue praying for us as we endeavor to serve with all our strength and energy in our work here at Vision Forum. Thanks for all of your support , from keeping up and commenting on our blogs to sending us “Care Packages” (want our address?).

I will work on keeping this site updated a little more consistently, so stay tuned.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Another Perspective

For some great photos of this conference please visit Nathaniel Darnel's blog at
Nathaniel is part of a two man team that is responsible for VF videography and the enjoyable Everyday News Network. The actual pictures were taken by VF Event Photographer Michael Fowl whose main job is that of leading the IT (Information Technology) department at Vision Forum.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Entrepreneuriel Bootcamp

A photo of yours truly during one of my first big assignments as a Vision Forum intern.

VF's large warehouse. This is where we are all working for the first week or so. This way we can become familier with all of the products in as we work up in other departments.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pictured here (from left to right) are Jonathan Berkompas, Tait Zimmerman, and Christopher Berkompas. We as interns had the pleasure of hosting Mr. Tom Berkompas and Jonathan the in the days preceding the Entrepreneurial Bootcamp. Mr. Berkompas, who is a great photographer, took a few pictures and wrote a post about staying with us. The site can be found at
By the way, the meal above was largely prepared by Mr. Berkompas. His great meals ultimately lead to his eviction but you'll have to read his blog for the details.

We were given the task of assembling over 1200 notebooks complete with conference notes, a cover photo page, and a feedback form the day before the bootcamp. The task took about 5 hours of assembly line work.

All the colors of the Riverwalk. Posted by Picasa

Henery B. Gonzalez Convention Hall. This is a huge facility in the heart of downtonwn San Antonio were all local big VF events are held. Posted by Picasa

This is were the main seesion were held. There were over 1100 people registered and about 2000 chairs set up in this ballroom. Posted by Picasa

A panel discussion during the Entrepreneurial Bootcamp. Posted by Picasa
Arnold Pent, author of Ten Peas in a Pod, autographs one of his books for two Bootcamp attendees. Posted by Picasa

This photo was snapped during our take-down mission at the completion of the conference. There was a joke by some of the staff who said that they really couldn't gauge how long it would take to pack up since the interns had not been tested yet. Well, we all finished a whole hour ahead of schedule, if that means anything. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Well friends, I thought that I would have time to go every detail of my trip from Oklahoma City, thru Lawton and on to San Antonio but I believe the conveyance of the fact that I met many old mentors, some who did not recognize me since I was at church 10 years ago, should suffice for now. Following are some pictures from my visits.

The Cara Family have been a source of great encouragement all through the years we have known them. I stayed with their family two nights and enjoyed the company of their children. The unique thing about this family is that the father is part German and thus mostly communicates with all of his children in German. The language is also engaged when the kids want to say something to a sibling without company knowing what is being said.

I will post some more picture later of the the Allison family who are family friends and fellow home educators. Blogger is not working right now so I'll have to post later.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

My stay in Moore, which is right outside of Oklahoma City, was quite pleasant, though very hot. We arrived last Friday at around midnight and I felt the urge to jump in Grandma’s pool. Unfortunately her dog also felt an urge to escape from the yard so I was looking all over the 1 acre yard with a flashlight until I located the mischievous best wandering in a neighbor’s yard.

After multiple events the following day including a steak dinner and a play we returned home and dad prepared for his morning flight to Virginia. Then when Sunday came around I didn’t feel moved by the Spirit to get out of bed and take dad to the airport so Grandma filled the void and I woke up to an empty house. When she returned I was dressed and ready to attend church and play a few piano pieces which she had requested me to prepare for her Sunday school class. After Church my grandmother and I, along with a few of her church friends, went out to eat at a place called Pickles. After a brief rest at the house, we both ventured out again, though in modified warm weather friendly clothes, to participate in a Church wide outreach to the community. The plan was to give out bags of school supplies to the first 2000 kids that showed up, and it worked. There was free hot dogs, soda, outdoor games, face painting, crazy clowns etc. Grandma was supposed to run a booth but she asked me if I could work it. I did indeed take the position and had quite a bit a fun at it too even though I was in the 108 degree sunlight for two straight hours.

After the church event my Grandmother and I joined another group to a pizza parlor. However to my horror, the event clown showed up and waltzed right over to the rest of us. She was a really nice person but have you ever tried eating pizza at the same table as a clown?

I stayed a few more days with Grandma so that I could help her learn a few computer concepts including adding background texture and music to emails and basic graphic design. After that I then prepared for my solo drive to Lawton, my hometown. My next post will detail who I stayed with, who I met, and what I did all in two days. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Can Life Exists Without Internet Access?

As I write, I am sitting with the three other Berkompas guys in an air conditioned vehicle which is parked in front of a Best Western hotel. We are not stealing wireless bandwidth but are merely verifying the hotels claims of free Wi-Fi. As we all type away here in the parking lot, one of the guys looks over to the inviting hotel pool a few feet away and wonders out loud if we could verify the aspects of that hotel commodity as well.

I arrived yester day afternoon around 5 PM and was the first intern of ’06 to enter the door. But my arrival as the first intern put me in the position to accept my first assignment, make copies of the house keys. Christopher (19), Jonathan (17), and Mr. Berkompas all arrived about three hours after I started setting up. We first met and then started planning for what needed to be done in the next 24 hours.

This afternoon found Jonathan and I searching for Fort Sam Houston and the post Commissary for groceries while Christopher and his father shopped for house essentials at Wal-mart. After sorting through the new items once we returned, we then met the landlords who stopped by to bring a temporary refrigerator in light of the fact that the main system was malfunctioning. Shortly thereafter, Tate Zimmerman was dropped off by an airport taxi upon his arrival from Alaska. We are still waiting for Jason to arrive from Virginia.

Please note thata the intern household will not be connected to cable internet until about next Monday, so all of my updates will have to made through these types of, err, creative methods.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Room in the Inn

Last night we stayed in Denver with the Roach family. We had met this Christ honoring family only briefly at a wedding, but surprisingly they were gracious enough to allow us weary travelers a nights lodging, and much entertaining conversation. We all talked well into the night and even when the clock struck midnight Chad, the oldest son of the family, and I spent another hour or so discussing various aspects of his business ventures and his work as personal assistant to Kevin Swanson, a pastor and inspirational home schooling speaker. Mr. Swanson actually stayed the night at the Roaches as well, along with his daughter, so that Chad could drop him off at the Denver International Airport the following morning at around 5:00 AM. I asked to go along and thus was able to talk to Kevin Swanson a bit more before he left.

Upon our return to the Roach’s new home, which is situated on 30 wide open acres of Colorado prairie, Chad and I quietly discussed Cindy Sheehan’s new property purchase (next to Bush’s ranch) and various topics concerning the conflict between Israel, the Hezbollah, and Lebanon over self made burnt bagels and non-concentrated orange juice (not a very promising omen for needed intern culinary skills).

We were in no hurry to leave this blessed family’s company this morning and thus only departed after joining in on the morning devotions, which concluded with a hymn. We then headed East across the corn filled flatlands of Kansas and then eventually headed South on I-35 towards Ponca City, Oklahoma.

The reason for this stop was to visit, upon my mother’s insistence, some long time friends whom I don’t even remember. I presume that it will be interesting to meet people whom I was supposedly playmates with back in the day. But then again, the encounter could turn into an awkward attempt of two parties trying make conversation on pointless topics in an effort to pass the time. In any event, I will let you in on what transpires this evening in my next post.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

On the Road

Well the day finally came for me to make my way to San Antonio, though it was not without a many heartfelt goodbye. Dad and I are making good time in our travels and are cruising through the deserted Plaines of Wyoming on our second day of travel. After an overnight stay at the home of some friends we will depart from Denver tomorrow morning and hopefully reach Oklahoma City Friday afternoon.

My main reason for even applying for the Vision Forum internship lies with the deep respect I have for the ministry. My family encountered the wealth of information found at the Forum during a struggle between our church and the principles for which we stand. When we got our hands on a series entitled “Reuniting Church and Family” we were encouraged to find out that families throughout the nation were also facing the same issues we faced. Because of the advice we encountered during that time, we were able to respond to our church family in a way that would glorify God instead of resorting to anger and resentment which were quite ready emotions. From that point on, we have come to appreciate the great ways in which VF is actually making a difference in our culture, and it is my desire to give of my time and energy in whatever capacity to help make such a difference.

The details of a cross country trip can sometimes be very boring so I will only post events of interest. My next post will be coming from OKC tomorrow evening to inform you of some of the interesting things I have seen already and things that will transpire tomorrow, if any. I also plan on posting pictures soon. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Yet Another Interesting Change of Events

Well, the days all started slipping by as soon as I got the phone call. With all three of my classes churning out assignment after assignment in light of fact that all finals take place next week, I barely had time to think when a Mr. Kevin Turley from Vision Forum Ministries told me they would like to have me join their staff for a six month internship. I had applied several weeks earlier for the opportunity with a half hearted hope of being accepted, but when I heard that Vision Forum was only hiring 3-4 interns instead of last year’s 7,and that over 70 people had already applied, I really felt that the odds were slim. Of course if I use the term “odds” then I am implying my belief in chance, but since I believe that all things work together for good to them that are called to Gods purposes, then I must say I didn’t think I would be blessed with the job. Again, God has blessed the hard work of my parents in my life, and I get the benefit. I could never be the person I am today with their reproof and guidance.

Anyway, many have asked about the phone interview that I had, and wondered what was asked. Well, the interview was carried out by Mr. Turley (who is responsible for the hiring process of interns, among other things), as well as by the company President, Mr. Doug Phillips. As you could imagine, I was slightly apprehensive while waiting for the phone to ring on the morning of the interview, but once the tele-conference got underway my confidence starting rebuilding.

Mr. Phillips asked most of the questions in areas regarding my opinions on church government, dating, and salvation. He also wanted to know how I learned about Vision Forum, why I wanted to spend six months of my life there, if I was willing to be physically and spiritually pushed to my limit, and exactly what I wished to gain by taking on the internship. Mr. Turley interjected from time to time with questions of his own including asking me for my sources of news, whether I felt that President Bush was enacting traditionalistic policies, and what was one biggest things I learned while serving in the Legislature. I believe that most of these questions were not specifically designed to investigate my every thought on these subjects, but were used to measure how well I was able to interact, communicate and express myself on the various topics. At the close of the interview I told both Mr. Phillips and Mr. Turley that even if everything didn’t work out, the interview was surprisingly a pleasure. And it was.

So now I have less than two weeks to prepare myself for a long drive down to Texas and an exciting six month long internship at a company which I respect deeply. I admire Vision Forum’s high quality efforts to equip mothers and fathers throughout our nation with a wide array of tools with which they can prepare their sons and daughters to impact this dark world. I also look forward to being apart of such a great and effective team.

There’s more I’d like to share but my math book is beckoning me from the distant corner of my desk. I will keep you updated on the flurry of events that are transpiring here, while at the same time trying to get decent grades on my finals here at school.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The past six months...

If you have been following my sparse and sporadic blog for any length of time, you will have come to the conclusion that I have worked in the Legislature, but that’s about it. Well, you deserve a little background for your valiant curiosity into my activities (which are not altogether always interesting). So let me explain.

I started my pursuit of a general education degree at Central Texas College, which is actually a satellite school based out of Texas, during November of ‘05. My first semester was focused on Government I and II. I must note that these classes were almost entirely consumed in more arguments and commentaries on various subjects between the students, more so than the teacher was actually able to teach. I only chose to take both of these classes at the same time because each course shares the same book (this matters when books cost over $100 dollars each).

During my semester in Government I found out about the Session Aid job for Senator Benton and applied. I spent countless hours writing and perfecting my resume and eventually, and with much prayer, sent it off. A week went by, followed by a succession of several more. Finally, two week before the session was set to begin I received a phone call from Senator Benton’s Legislative Assistant. He then told me that he had narrowed down the list of applicants to about three different people and was wondering is I still wanted the job. I did. He then called and asked if I would be able to come to the Capitol for an interview. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the interview and thus started to study all the valuable information on about interviews. To make a long story short, the assistant had already narrowed down who he thought would be good for the job and now only wanted to do a little personality checking.

Well, you all know the rest of the story but I would like to say that I can not in the least bit take the credit for the reasons for which I was chosen. This job was more than just source of income. It was a once in a lifetime educational experience and I knew that if I got the job it would be a gift of God. I also credit my success to my parent’s determination to raise their children after the Lord. I t is because of them and their efforts that I am able to exhibit the character qualities that I have today.

Now that the Legislative session is over I am once again immersed in my college studies. This time I am taking College Algebra, History II, and English composition I. The latter two classes do not challenge me very much, but the mountainous amounts of homework, combined with the fact that our eight week class is boiling down to be only a five week class due to various events, have made college algebra a course to be reckoned with.

I hope that this will provide my readers with a better sense of who I am, and at the very least, inform you of my current activities. With the knowledge that personal blogs can be very self centered and boring, I will be writing not only about my encounters with life’s interesting plights, but also offer discussion and my very informative commentary on our Nation’s current events.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Political Humor

Hillary Clinton was spending the morning at a primary school in Oneonta,New York to talk to the children about her job as a US Senator.

After her talk, she offered question time.

One little boy puts up hishand, and the Senator asks him what his name was."Kenneth.""

"And what is your question, Kenneth?""

I have three questions: "First - Whatever happened to your medical health care plan?

Second - Why would you run for President after your husband shamed the office?

And third - Whatever happened to all the stuff you and President Clintontook when you left the White House?"

Just then the bell rang for recess.Hillary Clinton informed the kids that they would continue after recess.

When they resumed, Hillary said, "Okay, where were we? Oh, that's right,question time.Who has a question?"

A different little boy raised his hand; the esteemed Senator from NewYork pointed him out and asked him what his name is.


"And what is your question, Larry?""

"I have five questions:First - Whatever happened to your medical health care plan?

Second - Why would you run for President after your husband shamed the office?

Third - Whatever happened to all the stuff you and President Clinton took when you left the White House?

Fourth - Why did the recess bell go off 20 minutes early?

And fifth - What happened to Kenneth?"

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The biggest fight in the Legislature

Many have asked me what the most significant bill in the legislature is for this session. Well, it evolves around the "rainbow troops". Senate Bill 2661 has appeared in the legislature in some form or another for over ten years, but without success. Unfortunately, this year is different.

I'll give you a little backgrounder on Senate Bill 2661, the “gay bill”. For the past 10 years this bill has surfaced in the State legislature and has been shot down every time, though it has been closer to success with each passing year. Now things have changed. Governor Gregoire has issued an official request for the bill in ‘06. This bill’s intent is to add the terms “sexual orientation”, in the list of areas where discrimination is prohibited, such as race, creed, nationality etc. The problem with this bill is that this legislation will protect a lifestyle, not a physical and unchangeable characteristic.

In both the House and the Senate it has met no opposition from the “D’s” and has even gained a swing voter from the Republican side in the Senate. Of course the media is hailing him as a bold, strong and courageous hero, but his fellow caucus members have quite an opposite opinion of his new stand on this issue. I even think he has been getting free Brokeback Mountain tickets from the press to congratulate his move to embrace open-mindedness and change…just a thought.

There were a few attempts to stall this legislation and, in a move which seemed like a joke, Senator Don Benton proposed two amendments to this bill. He stated that, while discrimination was wrong, if we were to protect a specific class of people based on their “Sexual orientation” we should also protect two other classes of people which he has seen discrimination against first hand, namely people with political party affiliations and also those suffering from obesity.

Yep, you read it right. But, the goal here was not actually to get the amendments passed, though doing so would be quite humorous. The point was made when the Financial Institutions Committee and those on the Senate floor both had their chuckles and voted against the amendments. The Senator then was able to pull the “discrimination” leg out from under the stood which the bills advocates stood on. Senator Benton then stated that this legislation was obviously not about beating out discrimination but was rather a first step in promoting a homosexual agenda.

On a side note, God, the Bible and Jesus were mentioned more times than I can count as liberal supporters tried to defend why this legislation is the right way to go. Isn’t it amazing that religion seems to be always taboo in public, especially the courts and the legislature, unless it is used justify immoral ideologies and practices?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Mid Session Update

The session so far has been a blast. I could probably be more professional in my analysis of the my time here by using terms such as informative, interesting, exiting, and rewarding. But then again, I’ve been writing that way for the past four weeks, and it’s kind of refreshing to sometimes tone down your writing… on occasion.

Our big push this year is Jessica’s law, and other such legislation which addresses the national phenomena of an alarmingly growing sexual offender population, which is an issue that I believe, deserves everyone’s consideration. Recently I was on the road to work listening to a local talk radio station. The hosts where talking about what should be the focus of this years legislative session. I called up and was put on the air soon thereafter. “Many people don't realize how vulnerable their children are in these days, and I believe that our State legislature in particular should be producing stronger laws and placing tougher sentences on sex offenders so that the innocence of our children here in Washington might be protected." The host paused and replied that this was a very big issue that needs to be addressed and thanked me for the call. Though I am restricted from lobbying for bill while at work I’m sure not bound by that law on the way to work! Of course if I get fired on behalf of the ethics committee I’ll be forced to think other wise.

I have been flooded with questions from family and friends and so I have listed the most common questions below and will update the list in the future.


How do you get to the Capitol? I drive.

How long is the commute? 15 minutes

How long is the 2006 legislative session?
60 days

What special privileges come with the job?
Invitation to all Senatorial receptions, admission to closed caucus sessions, special elevator and Senate chamber access.

What do you do at the capitol? Answer calls, reply to constituent emails, open all snail mail, do research on other government officials for specific reasons, draft speeches and press releases, deliver bills to the “Hopper” to be officially recognized the following day as a newly dropped bill, and fulfill whatever duties the legislative assistant or the Senator might present.

What is the dress code? Suite and tie are required. Security will not allow anyone without such to be admitted into the Senate chamber offices or near the floor.

What are your hours? 8-5, Monday thru Friday on normal days, but have been notified that committee and floor actions may extend well into midnight on some nights and may even extend into the weekends, though there is no paid over-time!

What have you learned so far? That not all government officials are at the Capitol to further cultivates their egos. Those constituents are number one priorities to most Senators, and that they respond to every enquiry from the people of their districts.

How is security set up at the Capitol? The Capitol security consists of State Troopers and retired military personnel who are stationed throughout the campus.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Session starts today

The Senate/House staff reception on Friday was a lot less formal than expected. With a sparkling disco ball, tons of pizza, loud music and unlimited alcoholic beverages, the atmosphere reminded me more of a college bar of sorts, more than a government sponsored reception. Not that I know what a college bar looks like, nor care to for that matter. All else aside though, the reception was an excellent opportunity to meet a few of the other interns and session aids with whom I will be working with. One thing of interest to find out was how far most of the interns had traveled to get to Olympia. Some where Yakima, Bothell, Pullman and other far distanced corner areas of the state. Also what I found surprising was the amount of money these college interns were paying to rent rooms and basements in people’s houses near the Capitol, the average price ranging around $500 a month! It just made me thankful that I still lived nearby.

Today is the start of a new day, a new experience and a new legislative session for Washington. I’m not sure exactly what all that this entails, but I most defiantly will find out soon. This session my Senator will be pushing some very interesting legislation, the most note worthy of which will be Jessica’s Law. You may have heard about the young Florida girl who returned from church with her parents one night only to be snatched from her bed later that evening by a man already convicted of kidnapping, rape and arson, only serving about 15 years for all offences combined. Jessica was later found dead two weeks later under a porch where she was buried was buried alive, after being raped. This new legislation has already been enacted by the State of Florida and Washington State will hopefully follow their lead in protecting the innocence and even the lives of children. The law would state that even first time sex offenders will be fined with a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison, with the possibility of the death sentence on some cases.
As a staff member of the Senate I am not allowed to lobby in any way for this bill, but wait till I tell you haw I was able to voice my opinion to hundreds of Washingtonians on the way to work.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Before the Storm

I’m told that the peaceful days are over. Next Monday will be the start of the 60th legislative session in Washington State, and will be the beginning of an interesting and hectic (?) time.

This past week has been crammed with training courses, lectures and media presentations with the intent on better equipping the legislative staff. The courses are well intentioned but some of the stuff is just a waste of time. Take, for instance, the hour long course on how to send an email, or the four hour session on ethics (which was mainly about how staff cannot lobby for their member, why we can’t accept gives over $50 dollars from lobbyists, and why sexual harassment will get you fired [!}).

There is usually a personal supporting staff of about three people per Senator. First there is the Legislative Assistant, which is here year round to respond to constituents, then there is the intern, which is here during the session for college credit, and then the is the session aid (usually college grads), whose is also here for the session, and whose job it is to take calls, greet constituents (the voters), and conduct other such supportive activities.

The last few days of the week I have been more involved in the office. My responsibilities now include sifting through the snail mail, responding to calls for the Senator from the State Hotline, answering the office phone, and tracking constituent opinions.

Tonight, the Senate and House will be hosting a casual reception to welcome new staff and interns to the 2006 session. Aside from getting “free pizza, beverages, music, and fun” the purpose seems to be a chance to try and meet all of the Senate and House staff “before the storm”.

Next time I log in, I will address any interesting events in tonight’s get-together, as well as talk about the legislation we will be pushing this session (some really good stuff). By the way, I have been asked by the LA (Legislative Assistant) to think of a bill of ny own, which will then be given to the Senator and most likley presented to the legislative process. If you have any ideas on a new law or "anti" law then drop a comment.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Hello and Welcome to this new little corner of the web (can there be a corner in a web?).

I plan on writing about the days and events in the State Capitol from the viewpoint of a session aid to a senator here in Washington. As most of you (don't) know, the Legislative Session starts on the second Monday of the first month of the year, according to the constitution. So this past week has been filled with numerous meetings, lectures and other forms of communicating (sometimes needless) information so that all of the Senate staff will be prepared when the ninth of January rolls around.

More will be coming soon as I learn to manipulate the features on this site.